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Czech Republic: Zeman backs Babis for presidential run

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Prague, Czech Republic – Milos Zeman backed former Prime Minister Andrej Babis to replace him as Czech President in 2023.

In an interview with CNN Prima News, the current head of state said Babis would make a good candidate for Czech President in 2023, when Zeman’s second and last term runs out, praising his achievements as Prime Minister.

Zeman nevertheless said he was surprised by Babis’ unwillingness to remain in power following the October legislative elections, reminding he was ready to give the Premier the opportunity to try to form a government.

Babis’ ANO party was narrowly beaten by the centre-right Spolu coalition in the Czech general elections more than two months ago.

But Zeman, with whom he had struck an implicit alliance throughout his term as Prime Minister, had repeatedly said he would task the head of the strongest individual party (rather than coalitions of several parties) in forming a new government following the elections – namely ANO.

But ANO’s potential partners’ poor election results, Babis’ inability to secure a majority in the lower house of Parliament, as well as his possible desire to focus on a presidential run instead, appear to have been behind the Primer Minister’s decision not to take up Zeman on his offer and step aside faster than expected.

The new government led by Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) was officially sworn in last week.

Although Babis never publicly said he would run for president in 2023, speculation surrounding the billionaire’s political future has intensified in recent months.

Under the constitution, the Czech president is largely a figurehead, with most of the executive power going to the Prime Minister and his government.

Throughout his two terms, Milos Zeman however used his influence and networks to expand the president’s power beyond its constitutional prerogatives – a practice likely to remain if Babis replaces him in Prague castle.

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